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Dehydration in Children (cont.)

What are the symptoms of dehydration in children?

Be concerned if your child has an excessive loss of fluid by vomiting or diarrhea, or if the child refuses to eat or drink.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased frequency of urination or dry diapers
  • Sunken soft spot on the front of the head in babies (called the fontanel)
  • No tears when the child cries
  • Dry or sticky mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth or tongue)
  • Lethargy (less than normal activity)
  • Irritability (more crying, fussiness with inconsolability)

When should I call the doctor if my child is dehydrated?

Infants and small children can become dehydrated quickly.

Contact your doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Crying without tears
  • No urine output for over a period of four to six hours
  • Sunken eyes
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting for more than 24 hours, or vomiting that is consistently green in color
  • Fever higher than 103 F (39.4 C)
  • Less activity than usual
  • Urination much more than usual

Go to a hospital's Emergency Department in these situations:

  • If your child is lethargic (difficult to awaken)
  • If you cannot reach your doctor
  • If your child is complaining of severe abdominal pain
  • If your child's mouth looks dry

How is dehydration in children diagnosed?

The doctor will perform a thorough history and physical exam in an effort to determine the severity and cause of the dehydration.

Specific laboratory tests may be ordered.

  • A complete blood count may identify an infection.
  • Blood cultures may identify the specific kind of infection.
  • Blood chemistries may identify electrolyte abnormalities caused by vomiting and diarrhea
  • Urinalysis may identify bladder infection, may give evidence of the severity of dehydration, and may identify sugar and ketones in urine (evidence of uncontrolled diabetes).
  • In some cases, the doctor may order other tests, such as a chest X-ray, a test to check for rotavirus, stool cultures, or lumbar puncture (a spinal tap).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2016

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Dehydration »

Dehydration describes a state of negative fluid balance that may be caused by numerous disease entities.

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